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Family law

Challenging a will

If the deceased promised to give you something in their will

When can I make a claim under the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act?

Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949, s 3

You can make a claim under the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 if:

  • you provided services or performed work for the deceased during their lifetime, and
  • in return for these services or work, the deceased made an express or implied promise to reward you or make a particular provision for you in their will, and
  • they didn’t keep that promise.

How can I prove that a promise was made?

Sometimes it’s difficult to prove that a promise was made. You can use oral or written evidence (such as letters or texts). Previous wills can also be used as evidence of the deceased’s intentions.

You might not have to prove that a promise was made explicitly or in writing. The court might agree that there was a promise based on the the surrounding circumstances.

How will the court decide?

Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949, s 3

The court will consider all the circumstances of the case, including, in particular:

  • the circumstances in which the deceased made the promise, and you performed the work or services
  • the value of the services or work
  • the value of what was promised
  • the amount of the estate
  • the nature and amounts of the claims against the estate by other people.

What happens if my claim is successful?

Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949, s 3

The court can award reasonable payment out of the estate to honour the promise. The court will consider all the circumstances of the cases to decide what is reasonable.

Is there a time limit on making a claim?

Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949, s 6

You must file in the court within 12 months of the grant of probate. The court can extend this time frame, but not if the estate has already been distributed.

The procedure for making a claim is similar to making a claim under the Family Protection Act (see: “What is the procedure?”). Generally, it’s recommended for you to get a lawyer’s help to prepare your claim.

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Confirmation of the cause of death – Coroners

The website of Coronial Services of New Zealand has information about the role of coroners in investigating the causes of deaths.

Website: coronialservices.justice.govt.nz

Registering a death

The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on what to do when someone passes, including registering a death.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/death-and-bereavement

Burial and cremation

See your local council website for information about burial and cremation in your area.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga

The Ministry for Primary Industries has information on its website about Māori customary rights for gathering kaimoana for tangihanga, hui and other traditional purposes.

Website: www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/maori-customary-fishing

Financial support for bereaved families

Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/urgent-costs/bereavement.html
Phone: 0800 559 009

ACC’s website has information about different types of accident compensation and payments that can be made to family members when a person has died in an accident.

Website: www.acc.co.nz/im-injured/financial-support/financial-support-after-death
Phone: 0800 101 996

Organ Donation New Zealand

Organ Donation New Zealand has information about organ and tissue donation.

Website: www.donor.co.nz

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